Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas and Beyond

Wow what a week it's been! This was our first Christmas married and boy was it different from last year's when we were dating. Between the two of us there was a lot of family to visit and visiting. I don't think I've ever tried to cram so much of it in one weekend! All in all, it was a wonderful time spent with our families and an awesome reminder of the birth and life of Christ, the greatest gifts we could ever receive.

I spent the week before Christmas trying to bake a few things each day so that all the homemade gifts would be done on time. The result was a new love for the ease of using my kitchenaid mixer, a demolished kitchen covered in floor and sugar, and very happy family members. (Check out below for a quick recap of everything I made. Tutorials and recipes will follow soon!)
Homemade Gift List
  • Pumpkin Bread --Without the nuts... We've got enough of those in the family already! ;) I wrapped it with plastic wrap, wrapped a strip of burlap around it, and finished it off by tying a thinner strip of brown gingham around the middle.
  • Biscotti -- I adapted this basic recipe (It's a good one!) and made a Pistachio with dark chocolate, Orange Almond, and an Anise version with a little bit of leftover pecans. Watch for the recipes with my adaptions.
  • Holiday M&M cookies -- I just used the tollhouse chocolate cookie recipe but used the red and green m&ms instead of chocolate chips. They turned out super cute and fun!
  • Sugar cookies -- I cut out snowman shapes and frosted them with white and brown vanilla frosting (yes from a can.. I was tired), and I also cut out circles so that Xavier could help me decorate them with colored sugar. I'll have to post pictures and a tutorial for the colored sugar since they turned out so darn cute!
  • Orange Marmalade -- I still haven't ever tried this, but it sounded like a fun idea. It reminds me of Paddington Bear every time I think about it! My Ball canning book didn't have a regular orange marmalade recipe, so I found this one by Alton Brown and it seemed to have good reviews. I don't have a mandolin, so I had to hand slice the oranges, but it still turned out pretty. One lady in the reviews said she was going to try mixing in limes for a color contrast, and I might have to try that sometime too.
  • Pecan Candies -- Mine definitely didn't turn out that pretty, but man were they good!
  • Chunky Crayons -- We melted down crayons to make chunky crayons for my youngest brother, and they were so cool we had to keep some too!
Our Christmas Adventures
Saturday morning we got up bright and early and drove to my parents house to open gifts before they left to go see other family. I was pretty excited to get a new RED camera. Word of advice -- if you're sweet little children love your camera as much as mine does, get a cheap one they can play with and take pictures and not ruin your notprofessionalbutstilltakessuperawesomepictures camera. Unless of course you have a mom as awesome as I do who will gladly replace it if you put it on your very short Christmas wish list ;) We got to spend most of the rest of the day just relaxing, and finished our day with an elaborate dinner with my husband's family and extended family. I've only been to a $20+ dinner restaurant a few times, and rarely ordered much more than the less expensive sandwiches, so it was a totally new experience for me. I still haven't decided how much I liked the house salad, but I have an extreme desire to try to recreate it, so watch for that as well.
Christmas morning started off a little earlier than I would have liked, but it was awesome to get to have that time with our little family. Xavier amazed me by spending about 5 minutes with each new thing and then moving on to the next thing to try it out. This was the first year he really understood that he was going to be getting presents, and all he would ask for was a new train. So of course we obliged and bought some of the pricier Thomas the Train toys. We spent a long time in the toy aisle, and honestly I wasn't very impressed with the selection for his age group. Anyway, we also got to have Christmas morning with my hubby's family which was a lot of fun. By this time in the weekend I was getting worn out from all the excitement and enjoyed just getting to sit back and watch everyone else's excitement. My mother in law had the awesome idea of buying tamales and other Mexican foods the day before, so after church and nap time we had a Mexican style dinner with them. It was a nice alternative to the typical heavy, but delicious, holiday-fare.

What were some of the exciting parts of your Christmas? Is there anything you do to help aid in the post-Christmas clean-up or recovery?

Monday, December 19, 2011

First Christmas Tree!

This year is our first Christmas together as a family, and I'm so excited! I've been a little over ambitious with my ideas, and have given up on most of them. There's just something about being 6 months pregnant and not having a lot of energy that's taking the motivation out of all the project ideas I had.

I've always wanted to cut down my own tree, so we decided to do that this year. We got our pass and headed out to the forest with the in-laws!

I was really hoping to get something more full and comparable to the ones at the store, but we had a lot of fun! Xave loved getting to run around outside, and was maybe a little to excited about cutting things down.
I stumbled upon this abandoned birds nest while I was looking for some good boughs for a wreath (*ahem* one of the projects I still haven't gotten around too..). Xave thought it was pretty dang awesome. I think his camo carhartt jacket is pretty awesome too (and so was the deal I got on it).
Now since I bailed on making a majority of our Christmas ornaments, it was either leave the tree bare, or find some good deals. I got a couple boxes of candy canes for $1 or so a piece, and bought all the lights on sale. Then I decided to visit the Dollar Store and to my delight, they had some pretty decent looking stuff, so I bought the rest of my ornaments there! I'm definitely hoping to get some better ones made or bought before next year, but not bad for the price! :)

These balls came in sets of 5 in mostly red and green. They were tucked on a bottom shelf, and I almost bought a not so pleasant alternative. I was quite relieved a little excited to get these instead.
My absolute favorite find was the little bells that are hiding in the upper part of the above picture. I wish I had a better picture, but they were so adorable! The bottom has a little snowflake, and I loved the faux metal finish. These will definitely be hanging around for a few years at least. And 9 for $1! LOVE that!
These are one of the projects I started but never actually finished. The plan was to make stuffed burlap star ornaments. I put some heat and bond on the back of the burlap and then cut out little star shapes. Then I decorated a few with some haphazard embroidery, and ribbon bows like this one. My plan was to sew them to a plain star backing, stuff them, and attach a ribbon for hanging. Instead I just set them around the tree and they're actually pretty cute just like that.

What are some fun things you've made for your Christmas tree this year? Did you find any new ornaments that you absolutely LOVE?